OK – so, everyone talks about the “route to the Ryder Cup”. Whether that’s for captains, players, families, caddies, officials, volunteers, whatever – it’s a pretty important journey. So, I thought I’ d tell you about mine.
From around June I knew I’d be going to Hazeltine in Chaska, Minnesota for the Ryder Cup. It’s my seventh Cup, and no, it doesn’t pall, doesn’t become any less toe-curlingly fantastic to be going. Brian, my husband, and I decided we’d have ten days or so holiday in the US before reporting for duty at Hazeltine. We loosely planned our schedule with all our requirements – decent accommodation (easy in America); a few visits to brew pubs (Brian’s particular interest) and some good challenging exercise to be sure to be prepared for 12-hour days on the course, broadcasting.
We landed in Chicago after a long, tedious flight from Manchester and immediately headed south and then east and north, rattling through Indiana and up into Michigan itself, along the east coast of the lake of the same name. Now, I don’t want you to think it was all play and no work. I resolved to check in frequently on Ryder Cup news to see if US captain Davis Love III was giving any indication as to his final pick. As we settled into the modestly named Grand Haven for a couple of days there was no word from Davis.
Grand Haven was beautiful with spectacular beaches and walks along the shore and biking trails everywhere – and I mean everywhere. It’s the first state I’ve been in where it’s possible to get around without a car. We ticked off a few things on our list: Brian’s holiday haircut – tick; brew pubs visited – tick, tick, tick. Fellow brew pub enthusiasts suggested we go further north to Traverse City and visit Glen Arbor and surrounding area.
Brian was doing all the driving on this trip (his choice) which brought one particular domestic to the fore. Sat-nav or map? Which do you trust? A sat-nav is only as good as the programmer and I’ve always been a map girl. After the first two days, when we had travelled far more miles than necessary because we were avoiding every sort of road except long, winding, curly ones, I lost patience and took over with our newly acquired Rand McNally 2017 atlas. Peace restored, more or less. One thing we did agree upon was how astonishing it was that so many cars in America seemed to be sold minus indicators. Just an observation.
Still no word from Davis on his pick.
In Traverse City we visited the spectacular Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore Park. The dunes were magnificent, including a famed Dune Trail which involved a vertical climb up a 400-foot sandhill of beautiful, soft, golden sand. Exercise for the Ryder Cup – tick; brew pubs – tick, tick.
All going well, with a little education thrown in. Did you know that Michigan is famous for its cherries? And I didn’t know that Lake Michigan is the only one of the Great Lakes to be wholly in the US. The other four – Superior, Erie, Huron and Ontario – all have the US/Canadian border running through their centres.
Time to head south again. One delightful night in Saugatuck, another gorgeous lakeside beach town, then we whizzed back to the windy city and to the world famous Wrigley Park, home of the Chicago Cubs baseball team. We stayed in an AirBnB one block north of the stadium in the centre of vibrant, friendly Wrigleyville. Taylor Zarzour, one of my broadcasting colleagues on Sirius XM, for whom I work in the States, had organised tickets for us.
It was the Cubs versus the St Louis Cardinals. As a baseball virgin, I suspect the amazing seats just behind home plate were wasted on us but what a spectacle it was. There is nothing like a live sporting event and the friendly fans flanking us (one of each persuasion) were only too happy to give us a crash course on the nuances of the game. A brilliant, brilliant experience. Exercise – nil; brew pubs – tick, tick,tick.
The latest from Davis on his US side: “This is the best golf team maybe ever.”
Hmm! And that’s with only eleven of them.
We leave Wrigleyville with its amazing, beautiful old homes, (brownstones, I think) and point the car in the direction of Chaska, Minnesota and Hazeltine Country Club. We travel through miles of rolling, elephant-eye-high cornfields in Wisconsin with pristine, oxblood-red farms dotted hither and thither and decide that this is not the state to open up a business selling push lawnmowers. Nor motorcycle helmets for that matter.
No word from Davis but, hold on! Time for Johnny Miller to step in with his thoughts: ”I do believe the Euros have got, at least on paper, the worst team they’ve had in many years,” Miller said at the Tour Championship.
Hmmm! Sounds like the Europeans should just send the trophy over and stay at home.
Next stop, Green Lake, Wisconsin. Rory has just won the Tour Championship AND the Fed-Ex Cup in spectacular fashion. Hooray! At least one of our awful team seems to be able to play!
No word from Davis on his twelfth man.
We are not required to wait too much longer. At halftime during Sunday night’s football game, featuring the Cowboys and Bears, Davis Love III announces the final member of his team, less than five days before the competition starts. It is Ryan Moore, runner-up to Rory in the Tour Championship and world No 31. Earlier in the week Moore had ruled himself out of the running for the final captain’s pick saying, “I’m resigned to the fact that I’m not going to be on the team. I had a long talk with Davis. It’s not going to happen.”
Hmmmm! Safe to assume that Moore is somewhat surprised to find himself going to Hazeltine. And what about Bubba Watson? No room for a double major champion with only two Americans ahead of him in the world rankings? Even a 66-67 weekend at the Tour Championship wasn’t enough for him to get the nod. So the surprises have started already for some of the US players. I wonder if this “worst team Europe have had in many years” will be able to deliver a few more? Let’s hope so!
Maureen’s away this week, so I’m in sole charge of the blog and admit responsibility for this post; perhaps the power has gone to my head……There were plenty of serious topics about but the Ryder Cup will loom large next week; the leaking of the health records of Justin Rose and Charley Hull and their TUEs (therapeutic use exemptions) is part of a story that will run and run; the Solheim Cup is next year but many congrats to Marta Figueras-Dotti on being named as one of Annika Sorenstam’s vice-captains, another great choice (and already one of our q and a’s); and well done to the Ireland team of Leona Maguire, Olivia Mehaffey and Annabel Wilson, who won the bronze medal in the Espirito Santo in Mexico. They finished just a shot behind Switzerland, who were a whopping 21 shots behind the champions South Korea.
So, of course, I’m going to muse about headcovers or “those little hat things” as a non-golfing friend calls them. I’m not alone in finding this subject of interest: the latest newsletter from the LET has a feature called Head Covers On Tour but I’m not proud and I prefer headcover to be all one word even if the computer doesn’t. Many of them have names and they all have a story and they don’t complain if you drop them or keep them hanging about during a photo shoot. The main danger came from Meg, the lovely but bonkers collie next door, who likes to attack the fence if she thinks anything is threatening her side of it. Good thing she couldn’t see the furry animals being snapped.
First up is Dornoch, the moose who protects my driver. He’s a bit heavy and unwieldy so doesn’t get out much but he reminds me of a Canadian friend called Lorne Rubinstein, who once spent a year in Dornoch and wrote a lovely book about it. Its title is A Season in Dornoch, Golf and Life in the Scottish Highlands, and the foreword is by Sean Connery.
Caradoc, a battered old red dragon that I gave to my husband many years ago, covers the 3-wood and reminds me to douse my fiery temper in a way that Dai rarely did his when he was alive. I get a lot of practice because it’s a club a bit out of my league and is serviceable rather than spectacular, specialising in the sort of worm burners that irritate the hell out of opponents.
My rescue club has a new cover, as yet unnamed, a retro, old-fashioned looking red and white knitted thing with a big pompom and the Ricoh Women’s British Open trophy on it. I think I’ll call it Woburn because that’s where I won it, in a press putting/chipping comp conducted by Master Professional Luther Blacklock. I was chuffed to bits and am very proud of it.
The lion with a multi-coloured mane is a John Daly confection that looks after a precious persimmon driver made for me by a craftsman called Peter Broadbent. I don’t know if I could hit it now, having got used to drivers with heads at least twice the size but I still love it. And I love the cover because I bought it in Augusta, from John Daly, who was manning his (very posh) stall in the car park of the Hooters just down Washington Road from the golf club that was then run by Hootie (Johnson, the chairman of Augusta National at the time). From Hootie’s to Hooters was a very hot trek but worth it.
Lastly but by no means least there’s Gilly the Galah, a pretty ghastly creation that sheds vile pink fibres every time he’s touched. He still squawks if his beak is pressed but he has pride of place near my front door because our inimitable captain Jayne Fletcher bought us all one when we reached the finals of the Mail on Sunday. It’s a fantastic team competition that attracts entries from several thousand clubs and is fiendishly difficult to win. We (Whittington Heath) were beaten by Farnham from Surrey in the final at El Rompido, in Spain – Sale and South Moor were the other semi-finalists – and we all had a ball. So Gilly, named after the Spurs (and Dundee) legend Alan Gilzean, is, quite simply, the greatest!